Argentina suspends 12 beef export operations as conflict over ban deepens
By Maximilian Heath
BUENOS AIRES, May 31 (Reuters) - Argentina said on Monday it had temporarily shut down 12 beef exporters over "irregular" operations and had seized over 220 tonnes of meat as tensions over the government's meat export ban deepen.
Argentina, the world's No. 5 supplier of beef, has long been renowned for its high quality meat. But the government two weeks ago slammed the door on exports in a bid to bolster domestic supply amid runaway inflation.
The ministry of agriculture said it had temporarily suspended the export activities of six companies after discovering "irregularities such as not liquidating foreign currency or having registered false addresses, among other charges."
Officials said they had already shut down six firms on similar charges, for a total of 12, involving the seizure of 220 tonnes of meat. The ministry noted an additional five firms were also under investigation.
Argentina is famed for its cattle ranches and cuts of steak, which are a central part of the local social fabric, with many gatherings of families and friends held around the "parrilla" barbecue grill at the weekend.
However, rising meat costs have come under fierce scrutiny in recent months. Some consumers - already hit hard by three successive years of recession - say they are no longer able to afford beef. Inflation has sapped growth and spending power.
The country has ramped up beef exports in recent years, especially to main-buyer China. The government blames fast-rising exports for stoking inflation. (Reporting by Maximilian Heath; Writing by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Bill Berkrot)
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